3. Improved defense and superior 3-point shooting
Coach Mike D’Antoni is not known for focusing on the defensive end of the ball. But, props must be given to the Houston Rockets for their stellar defensive play so far in the bubble, including the playoffs.
The Rockets are currently one of the underappreciated defensive teams in the playoffs. The addition of Robert Covington has helped this Rockets team elevate their defense to new levels, as the Rockets now have the second-best defensive rating out of the playoff teams, behind only the Boston Celtics.
Houston has been the best team in the league in terms of allowing points off turnovers, which shows how good they’ve been at getting back on defense at all times. The biggest factor on the defensive end, though, has been James Harden, who has been one of the better defenders in the league, which might surprise many.
The efforts Harden shows on both sides of the court is what plenty of people have been waiting for, and he showed that with his series-saving block of Luguentz Dort to end Game 7 on Wednesday.
James Harden has proven he is a reliable defender in the most critical times, which he showcased against reigning and most likely back-to-back MVP, Giannis Antetokoumpo. Houston’s projected starting lineup is all capable of being great defenders. Westbrook, Harden, Danuel House, Covington, and P.J. Tucker all bring something different on the defensive end.
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Last but certainly not least, the Rockets are filled with 3-point shooters. Yes, Harden and Gordon have been shooting poorly from three, but don’t expect this to last a long time with Russ returning.
The Lakers are one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the playoffs thus far, whereas the Rockets are the best.
If the Lakers continue their 3-point shooting woes against the Rockets, they don’t stand a chance. This series will be determined on the play of James Harden and the Lakers role players.
If the Lakers can manage to keep up with the Rockets rapid-fire offense as well as make their shots, this series can easily go seven.
The Rockets will win this series if they make the Lakers play Houston Rockets basketball. This is why a potential matchup against the Blazers would be a tougher series for the Rockets, since they match up against the Rockets perfectly.
The Rockets got what they wanted with a matchup against the Lakers, and it all begins Friday night at 9 PM ET on ESPN.